I’m very suspicious of the idea that the architect simply does the drawings and then asks the engineers to build it, There’s more to architecture than architecture.
~ Lord Richard Rogers

Integrated Disciplines

The DTS PROJECT HOUSE integrates the expertise and innovations of concentrated disciplines to both meet the technical requirements of the project and make possible a better execution of the architectural agenda. Collaboration and interdisciplinary efforts are currently much stressed among architects, engineers, and designers, and are now taken as a matter of faith with little questioning. Exactly why is collaboration a good thing and does it necessarily produce better architecture?  Are there more and less effective methods of collaboration? mills studio’s answers to these questions help shape the form of the collaborative effort resulting in the DTS Project House.

The various disciplines that can contribute to a building design are now specialized to such a degree that it is impossible for a single design entity to master them. Each discipline itself requires many areas of expertise to exploit all of the available options, opportunities, and possibilities. Science, art, products, construction implementation, codes, and sustainability are all areas of expertise required within each specialized discipline. And each specialized discipline also involves cross-disciplinary knowledge such as Landscape Lighting. The design options and product opportunities within each discipline are now so varied and changing at such a rate that makes it impossible for an architect to remain aware of all the possibilities at his disposal to execute and implement his architectural agenda.

The architect has the opportunity and responsibility to take advantage of the expertise and multiple focused perspectives offered by owners, engineers, consultants, sub-contractors, craftsmen, artisans, and contributing artists. A specialized knowledge of what is possible in multiple design and construction realms can combine to push the architectural implementation to innovations that better clarify and more powerfully make tangible the potentials and purposes of architecture. Individual perspectives and disciplines should both challenge and support how best to express and implement the intended architectural agenda. A collaborative architectural implementation is effective and responsible because architectural implementation is particular and circumstantial, expressly altered by time and place.

Although architectural implementation should take full advantage of collaborative efforts, the defining of an architectural agenda and a defining of the purposes of architecture should not be a collaborative effort. An architectural vision and agenda is values based and thus not circumstantial and subject to multiple perspectives. Values driven agendas are not developed in isolation, but are not a collaborative effort. A building of lasting significance does not express multiple architectural agendas or competing purposes for the art of architecture. An architectural agenda and the essential purposes of architecture are not project dependent, they are in a sense a priori, and should not be shaped by collaborative efforts.  

It is the architect’s responsibility to define a clear and convincing architectural agenda that sets forth the essential purposes of architecture and then assemble a group of collaborators that will best implement the articulated architectural agenda. It is the architect’s responsibility to filter the input of multiple contributors from multiple design realms through the architectural agenda to ensure that the produced results and innovations are responsible and are working to make tangible the lasting purposes of architecture. Multiple or competing agendas might lead to interesting architecture but not significant architecture. The fact that envisioning an architectural agenda is not a collaborative effort, does not mean there is only a single understanding for the purpose of architecture and thus a single architectural agenda. It does mean that there is a single, authentic agenda for any significant architect that follows from each architect’s values and understanding of the purposes for architecture.  

Architecture and the collaborative process are about synthesis and analysis, the whole and the part. The tangible experience, especially the initial experience, of most significant buildings is one of synthesis, an experience of the whole, because it is ultimately the whole that  outlasts the part. It is ironic though, that the integration that provides this experience of the whole is often best achieved by exploiting the most specialized aspects of individual disciplines. The collaborative process is one of pulling the whole apart and analyzing each part and discipline as an end in itself and putting the parts and efforts of individual disciplines back together into a synthesized whole. This push and pull between part and whole, between individual and community, are what give life and architecture their dynamism.   

While the practitioner of each discipline practices his discipline with a focused perspective, in the best architecture none of these disciplines is just an end in itself, but its value is equally determined by how it works in combination with the other disciplines to implement the architectural agenda and work toward “Total Design” as the important 20th century engineer Ove Arup would describe it.    

The DTS Project House design ad construction exploits the potentialities and innovations of the individual disciplines of Sustainability, Structural Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Lighting Design, Pool / Spa Design, Low Voltage Design. Acoustical Design, Civil Engineering, Landscape Design and Interior Design. 

The particular consultants for the DTS Project House were chosen for their ability to integrate the science, art, and business of their disciplines, with business including both the ability to provide adequate design documentation for permitting and construction and a sufficient knowledge of construction to implement the design in the field. It was important to chose consultants grounded in science and technical expertise, as the more grounded in the science the better the ability to innovate responsibly and artistically. Practicing in the specific project locale was important for certain disciplines, but technology makes this not important for other disciplines.

The collaborative efforts at the DTS Project House will be successful if the architectural agenda is clearly and innovatively expressed, and the traces of individual efforts are sufficiently integrated that distinctions among design disciplines dissolve into a singular vision.   

A world which sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the world as a whole.
~ Sir Edmund Happold

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